He was knighted for his services to the Queen in 1585. Then he set off to North America, exploring and colonizing, calling the new land Virginia after the Virgin Queen.
It was following this that he blotted his copybook badly with his monarch. Elizabeth liked to surround herself with skilled, handsome and admiring men. Raleigh was one of these. Bess Throckmorton, a lady in waiting to the Queen, was a woman of good family, courageous and intelligent. Raleigh, eleven years her senior, fell in love with her. When he began to court her and them married her in secret without the consent of his Queen, Elizabeth not only banished him from court, she imprisoned him in the Tower in 1592. His wife and son joined him in his prison. The stay was a short one and Raleigh and his wife returned to his estate in Dorset, although he remained out of favour for several years. Two more sons were born to them there. Sir Walter and his Bess were a devoted couple and she proved able at handling his estate and affairs when he was off on his journeys.
Although Sir Walter eventually won his way back into the good graces of Queen Elizabeth, he didn't fare as well after her death with the new king, James I. James distrusted Raleigh who had enemies that built on this distrust. He was charged with treason and imprisoned again with his wife and family and servants, but released in 1616 to travel to South America and search for the City of Gold. He made an unsuccessful foray into Spanish territory against orders while on his quest and was summoned back by the King. Charged with treason, he was executed.
His head was embalmed by his wife and she supposedly carried it with her in a little velvet bag for the remainder of her life. The Lords", she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits."
After her death nearly thirty years later, it was returned to his tomb.